We attend Lift for Life Academy, a predominantly Black high school, middle school, and elementary school in the Soulard neighborhood. A former safe space and popular lunch place Jimmy John’s has been bought and is being refurbished into a marijuana dispensary directly across the street from our campus.

This is completely unacceptable for a few reasons: the influence this will have on children, the location, and the overall danger that we as students will be in is a scary thing to think about. We are genuinely troubled by these recent developments. We urge immediate action to address this issue and ensure that our school remains a safe space for all students.

Under Missouri law, there is a rule that marijuana dispensaries cannot be within 1,000 feet of a school building, church or day care. The proposed dispensary would normally not be allowed because it is about 150 feet away from our school campus. Unfortunately, there is a loophole within the city’s zoning rules and the dispensary is taking full advantage of it.

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Many of us find this disrespectful to the parents, staff, and, most importantly, students. This proposed dispensary already has three locations, in Fenton, St. Peters, and Manchester. None of these are close to a school, so why us? What makes Lift for Life different?

We are not expressing concern for just ourselves; we care about every St. Louis city school that could find itself having classes next door to a marijuana store. We believe this issue should be of concern to every St. Louis city resident and government official and we are hoping for immediate action.

Being that our school is in the middle of the Soulard neighborhood and the proposed dispensary is just across the street, it is probable that drug users and possible abusers will use our school’s sidewalks and parking lots while waiting to purchase weed at this store. Why introduce potential dangers into our school community and on our campus?

Due to the uniqueness of our campus, students and staff often go outdoors to their vehicles, the gym, or even to grab lunch at one of the local businesses. In addition, elementary and middle school kids often use the playground at the Soulard Farmers Market, which is also located across the street from the proposed dispensary. From our view, the surrounding neighborhood outside is just as much a part of our school community as the classrooms inside of our walls.

We realize that the students aren’t of age to purchase marijuana directly from the shop, but we all know it is fairly easy for a student to say to someone, “Hey mister, if I give you some money, can you buy me some weed?”

We should also keep in mind that there are many children whose minds aren’t open to exactly what marijuana is as a drug. A marijuana store will expose students to the drug as if it’s something for everyone.

It is sad to think that the first thing students will see when they arrive in the morning or leave in the afternoon from school is a weed business. Negative influences play a big part in what’s wrong with today’s society. Why do Lift For Life students have to be exposed to something that is negative for our health and wellbeing? Constantly seeing something repeatedly causes people to think harmful things are normal. A marijuana dispensary across the street from a school is far from normal.

No one really knows how this increased exposure could impact students’ views and behaviors involving the drug. One thing is unfortunately certain: Too many children at this school have already been exposed to issues related to drug abuse in their families. Worse yet is that some may have already experimented with the drug because someone told them it is not a big deal.

Among our group, some of us are young business owners, and we have discussed ways to grow businesses while always working to make everything around the community better. A marijuana dispensary being built across the street from a school is not the proper location. It does not make everything around it better.

It might be different if it was being built down the street. But a weed store right next to a school seems both insulting and possibly traumatizing. Our school tries hard to get kids to stay away from drugs and this dispensary being next to the school seems weird.

Why our school? Why us? Many of us have concluded that a predominantly white school in a richer neighborhood would never have this happen. The reason why we think this is because it has not happened to any other school. It is only happening to us.

We are looking for help from elected officials and the public to keep our school safe and free from drugs.

Paige F. is senior class president and a LFLA Board student representative. Sharee M. is senior class vice president and a local business owner. Tatyana J. is senior class secretary and a LFLA Board student representative. Christian N. is senior class treasurer and a local business owner.

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 We attend Lift for Life Academy, a predominantly Black high school, middle school, and elementary school in the Soulard neighborhood. A former safe space and popular lunch place Jimmy John’s  Read More